The Q&A

David Cook: 'I Just Think This Record Is Me'

The ''American Idol'' season 7 winner talks about his upcoming self-titled debut album, comparisons to runner-up David Archuleta and fourth-place season 5 finalist Chris Daughtry, and handling post-''Idol'' fame

David Cook | DAVID COOK ''I still feel like that awkward musician; I think I always will. That's a huge component of me staying kind of humbled and…
DAVID COOK ''I still feel like that awkward musician; I think I always will. That's a huge component of me staying kind of humbled and grounded about the whole thing.''

It's after midnight, but the shoot for David Cook's first music video, ''Light On,'' is just beginning in the middle of a football field at Los Angeles' Valley College. Director Wayne Isham is bragging on Cook's personality to his cameraman and other assembled crew members. ''I loved meeting you yesterday,'' gushes Isham, who has worked with many of the biggest names in the business over the last 20 years, ''because you're the nicest guy.'' Cook demurs upon hearing that praise, telling everyone, ''Give me 15 minutes and I'm gonna be the biggest a--hole you ever met.''

The man doth protest too much...and too politely, we might add. Over the course of a nearly seven-hour shoot, wearing a T-shirt in unexpectedly chilly weather, Cook proves unflappably affable, all promises of diva fits to the contrary. But do nice guys always finish first? They might on American Idol, as Cook did in winning this past season, but it remains to be seen how the singer will fare in the rock & roll musical realm he's reentering with his first major-label album, David Cook, which hits stores Nov. 18.

A couple of weeks after the video shoot, we caught some chat time with Cook, and true to form, the singer is proving quite sanguine under pressure, as you'll see in the conversation that follows.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you ever go online and sample the insane, intense fan scrutiny there?
DAVID COOK: ''There is this one video on YouTube that I've gotten into a habit of...well, not a habit, but I've [watched] it a couple of times. It's these early-teen girls watching the finale, and they filmed themselves, and they're all Archuleta fans, which is fun. My name gets announced [as the winner], and the girls just lose it. It's painful to watch in that sense, because obviously I don't want to feel like I'm upsetting anybody. But these girls said something that's so funny, to me: ''How could they vote for that guy? He doesn't even shave!'' I love that. Because to me that encapsulated everything about people getting into the show. They embraced the littlest things about each person. I find that so interesting, from a sociological level. The things that some people gravitate toward me for are the things that other people just shun. You've got to take it with a grain of salt. But I love that everybody cares enough to have an opinion. Loved, hated, but never ignored, I guess is how I look at it.

Sometimes you can read the partisan fan squabbles that are still happening online and wonder if 20 years from now people will still be battling out the Cook-versus-Archie dynamic.
Hopefully, because that means Archie and I are hopefully still doing well! In a sense, it's fun that that whole rivalry thing got created. If you put me in the same sentence with David Archuleta, I'll be fine.

NEXT PAGE: ''When Simon said that about Collective Soul, and said, ''You should have sung ''Billie Jean'' again or something,'' it was a rare moment where I felt justified to try to defend myself.''

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